Wednesday, 29 August 2012
Train Tip: What's the difference between the TGV and the iDTGV
Sometimes, especially when you are looking at the longer train journeys (down to the south of France for example) you will be given two train options. The TGV and the iDTGV. They go at the same time, and the iDTGV is normally cheaper.
What's the difference between the two?
Essentially.........nothing - except the iDTGV is cheaper than the normal TGV.
The iDTGV is essentially SNCF (the French train company's) low cost alternative. The main difference is that everything is done online. You need to book your ticket online, print your ticket online, and bring it to the train station. With the normal TGV you can print your ticket at the train station and make changes up until the train leaves at the train station.
The second difference with the iDTGV is that you need to 'check-in' before you board the train. With the normal TGV you arrive at the station, find your seat and at some stage in the voyage the conductor will come through the train to check tickets. With the iDTGV this is done on the platform before you are able to board the train. In practice this also means that you need to be at the station 15 minutes earlier, as they close the check-in about 5 minutes before the train leaves. Note: You are required to carry photographic ID for the iDTGV (technically also for the TGV), although no one has ever checked mine. But you should ensure you have an ID card or, preferably for non-French nationals, a passport.
The final major difference is that iDTGV is divided into two types of 'zone' or carriages: 'ZAP' and 'ZEN'. Zap zones are for normal conversations, playing games, watching movies etc (in fact you can rent movies and DVD players on the train). The Zen zone is for peace, quiet, and resting. You choose your zone when you book your tickets.
There are a couple of minor differences as well. The iDTGV, in my experience so far, has electric outlets at most of the seats, so you can plug in your computer or charge your phone. This is generally only found in first class on the regular TGV. Also, the food options on the iDTGV are different than those in the TGV - but not in any serious way. But the upside is that in the ZAP class, at some stage during the trip (at least on the Paris-Provence train) the food carriage comes through the train. This doesn't happen on the regular TGV.
Other than this (and perhaps, depending on the train you catch, slightly older decor), there is no difference. In fact, the iDTGV is actually physically connected to the normal TGV. You will find that when you book there will be an iDTGV train listed at the same time as a normal TGV. They will have different train numbers, but this is for administrative purposes only as while the iDTGV has its own engine, it is connected to the TGV running the same route. They leave and arrive together.
So to sum up. The key differences are
1. It's cheaper
2. It's all done online
3. It has different types of zones
4. You get a little better service (if you want power at the seat)
So if you have access to a computer and a printer (no they don't do mobile ticketing yet) the iDTGV can save you some money on your get away.
You can find out more about the iDTGV and book tickets on the official iDTGV website (most of it is in English).
You can also book tickets, and compare prices with the regular TGV, on the normal SNCF booking website (in French, but reasonably straight forward).
Posted by R and M Harding at 07:04